I decided to go on a diet. I guess the trip to Munnar did it for me.
As we drove along the winding Mattupetty road feasting our eyes on the luscious green Kannan Devan Hills, feeling the nip in the air, allowing the cool breeze to caress our faces, and enjoying the fog that would suddenly appear and disappear, we reached a place with an unusually high level of exuberance in the atmosphere - the elephant park. Getting down from the car we saw people screaming in excitement (the thrill was only half the reason as we found out later, the other half was in fear!) perched atop majestic (and kind of smelly) elephants swaying from side to side, herded by bored looking mahouts - probably making the nth trip since morning, and probably also wondering in amusement how a little trip mounted on a pachyderm could elicit such a feeling of exhilaration!
I shouldn’t say more about ‘those people’ since we belonged to that breed too, jumping with joy in anticipation of our rambling session. The trip paid for, including a photographer who would click candid shots of us screaming along our way, we settled on the machan-like waiting board. Ten elephants, ten groups and about 30 excited faces with token numbers held in sweaty palms, lingered in the limited enclosure like we were readying ourselves for a trip to the outer space! Ours was token no 1 and the excitement as you can imagine was palpable. I wanted a front view and volunteered to sit first - a decision, I little knew, I would soon regret!
The first elephant strode in, the passengers on it disembarked on a similar machan on the opposite side and the beast sashayed towards us like a model on a ramp. The mahout looked at us and in local vernacular said to the guide who stood with us, ‘Aavaradille anne...Hari yethikum.’ Roughly translated, my elephant (wait....hold your breath) ‘cannot’ take this weight, Hari (presumably another elephant), will be able to take them.
What??? The elephant just rejected us? Were we seriously overweight? The husband and I exchanged looks which cannot really be described using an adjective. Perhaps, you could call it the ‘its-your-fault-you-have-put-on-so-much-weight’ look! Anyways, there was hardly anything we could do...we just moved a step behind to let the people next to us board ‘our’ elephant which was no longer ours, by the way. Next came Hari, (I think), and even as I thought excitedly, ‘this is it’ and lifted a leg to put it around Hari, the mahout, nodded his head, ‘Nextu madam.’
‘Huh?’ I asked.
“Elephant weight not taking, bigger elephant coming. You waiting.’
Seriously? We needed a bigger elephant? I really hoped he was kidding, but looking at his face it was apparent that he was anything but joking!
We took one step back again, allowing the next family to board Hari.
With Hari gone, the third one swayed along, but we hardly had any enthusiasm this time. To my eyes, he looked smaller than the previous two or maybe it was my mind playing tricks with me. Our minds have strange ways of dealing with disappointment, don’t they? They know how to trick you into believing something is not for you, irrespective of whether it is or not, so that you should not feel let down should that thing actually not be for you!
This time, before the elephant could reject us, the guide broke the news to us, but we weren’t as disappointed. He told us we were to board the next elephant - he was the biggest and he should be able to carry us. That, I guess, was a polite way of telling us to let the third family board this elephant which we did with an embarrassed face and heavy heart. If there was a bucket of water somewhere, I’d have gladly drowned myself in it! And if the fourth elephant that was expected to carry us also couldn’t, then a handful of water would have sufficed.
‘This elephant madam, you all taking,’ the guide said with a wide grin, showing us his beedi stained teeth, and apparently more enthused that he finally found the right elephant for us or perhaps relived that we could finally be sent on our joy ride without him having to refund the fees that we had already paid! I secretly guess it was the latter.
And so after having been rejected by three pachyderms, we finally got to put our weight, err, ourselves on the one that gladly (I hope) agreed to seat us!
The leg that I lifted with so much aplomb refused to go around the mammal, so wide was its girth! After much struggle, I managed to seat myself, little knowing that it is not as fun to sit on an animal’s collarbone, especially a huge one at that, and get walked around on a hilly terrain! No wonder people screamed and we did too, once the four of us were ready to be hauled! With every step that it took, I thought that either I was going to fall off and be trampled under 5000kg of grey flesh or worried if our combined weight on its shoulders was going to make it angry enough to shake us off its back and trample me under all of its 5000kg anyway!
It took quite some time to adjust to the meteoric rise and fall of the giant’s footsteps, but by the time it happened, we were almost at the end of our journey!
And oh, did I mention that our pachy took two breaks in between and wouldn’t budge from its place for long! Apparently, it decided to unload its gut contents midway. Anyways that was the only thing in its control, for it couldn’t apparently unload us. Imagine sitting on an elephant that is busy making dung and emptying its bladder at its own leisurely pace while you squirm in displeasure!
As for the kids, they had a swell time enveloped between the two of us, shouting in joy, singing songs and discussing what the elephant could have had for lunch looking at the contents it so graciously spilled on the jungle floor!
|No, don't let the smile fool you, it was purely for the camera!|
When we alighted, I tried not to look into the elephant’s eyes, but I did, and I think in those tiny brown eyes, so disproportionate to its size, was a silent plea asking me to lose weight. That pretty much started me up on a diet, but what happened later is another story altogether! Will hold that for another day.